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Occasionally I like to revisit themes shared in old posts. In this particular past effort, I shared one of my core beliefs, which is that even in casual discourse, people unconsciously broadcast very revealing aspects of their persona that, if properly perceived, can act as very reliable guides for: whether one should engage with that person in a work or personal relationship; a reliable assessment of that person’s strengths and weaknesses.

A while back when I visited San Francisco, I met my friend Andrew Shotland for beer at City Beer Store. Afterward, we went for dinner to Henry’s Hunan Chinese Restaurant (recommended to me by a coworker). We could tell the place was going to be awesome…being the only “Gringos” in the place is always a harbinger for excellent ethnic food. The menu was not nearly as clearly written as this example shown on the web…and I really didn’t have a clue what we should order.

We decided to split a couple of dishes and get an appetizer. I looked to him for guidance and he decided to order “Diana’s Special Meat Pie” not necessarily because he knew anything about meat pies but because (paraphrasing him): “The description of the dish was longer and more detailed than the alternatives, meaning the restaurant cared more about describing the dish and they’re unconsciously communicating to us that this is the dish we should choose.”

As Andrew said that, a huge “bell” went off in my head, for not only was he so incredibly right but in that one moment, he validated why he’s an extraordinary search marketer and why he would be an asset to any project that he would be hired to complete.

In order to become proficient at search engine marketing, one needs to master a series of disparate skills and inculcate an area of knowledge that evolves massively (and suddenly) over time. Skills and knowledge are a great start, but there is a secret ingredient that separates people like Andrew from those who are just very good…and that is “perception.” People don’t learn to become perceptive by studying search marketing…rather, they’re bringing to search marketing a level of perceptiveness that’s been infused into their DNA for quite a long time…well before they ever decided to make search marketing their career.

Plenty of people can describe Google’s latest algorithmic page layout change and explain why Google might have done that, for we’ve all been drafting off of Google’s exhaust for some time now. However, to drop a person into a unique situation and have them come up with a profound out-of-the-box reasoning off the cuff…that’s the true test of their skill as an online marketer.  My dinner with Andrew was purely social…but had I been evaluating him as a prospective vendor and he said that to me, I’d likely would have taken my wallet from my pocket and handed it to him.

By the way, Andrew was right. ”Diana’s Special Meat Pie” was absolutely amazing…so much so that a local foodie wrote a post just about that particular dish. For any of my SF co-workers reading this, you need to check out this restaurant :.)

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Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz, who has been with 3Q Digital since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.